GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas' shadowy military chief escaped an apparent Israeli assassination attempt that killed his wife and infant son, the militant group said Wednesday as Israel's prime minister warned that the bombardment of Gaza will continue until rocket fire out of the Palestinian territory stops.
The airstrike on a home where Mohammed Deif's family members were staying — and the tough talk from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — came after the collapse of cease-fire talks in Cairo on Tuesday.
In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu showed little willingness to return to the negotiating table after six weeks of war with Hamas.
"We are determined to continue the campaign with all means and as is needed," he said, his defense minister by his side. "We will not stop until we guarantee full security and quiet for the residents of the south and all citizens of Israel."
More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, most of them civilians, according to U.N. and Palestinian medical officials. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers.
A six-day temporary truce collapsed into heavy fighting after Egyptian-mediated talks broke down without an agreement on an extended cease-fire. Hamas has demanded an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Israel has demanded that Hamas disarm.
Palestinian militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel, while Israel carried out numerous airstrikes across Gaza. One airstrike on a Gaza City house killed Deif's 7-month-old son and one of his wives.
After remaining quiet for most of the day Wednesday, Hamas officials announced that Deif was not in the targeted home at the time and was still alive. Deif has survived multiple assassination attempts, lives in hiding and is believed to be paralyzed from previous attempts on his life.
Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Hamas' military wing, said Israel was "unable to get to our commander Deif," adding that he will "lead the army that will enter to liberate the holy al-Aqsa mosque" in Jerusalem.
Asked whether Deif had been targeted, Netanyahu said: "The leaders of terror organizations are legitimate targets. No one is immune."
The house belonged to a family of known Hamas supporters. In footage taken after the strike, rescue workers were seen searching for survivors in the rubble where the building once stood.
Thousands of people attended the funeral for Deif's family, with a relative carrying the body of his son, shrouded in a white burial cloth. Mourners chanted "revenge" during the procession.
In a televised statement, Abu Obeida also warned international airlines against flying into Israel starting Thursday. Earlier in the conflict, airlines suspended flights into Israel after a rocket landed in a town near Israel's main international airport.
Since the truce collapsed, at least 22 Palestinians have been killed and more than 120 wounded, Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said.
The Israeli military said that it carried out nearly 100 airstrikes on Gaza targets, and that Palestinians had fired more than 140 rockets at Israel since the truce fell apart. About 2,000 reserve soldiers who had been sent home two weeks ago were called up for duty again Wednesday, the military said.
Air raid sirens wailed in southern Israeli cities Wednesday morning, warning of incoming rockets from Gaza. There were no reports of injuries, though a piece of a rocket that was intercepted near Tel Aviv fell on a busy road on Tuesday night.
Israel ordered the reopening of public bomb shelters within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Gaza.
In the talks, Hamas sought an end to a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed when it seized power in Gaza in 2007, while Israel wanted guarantees that the Islamic militant group would disarm.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" over the breaking of the cease-fire. It said in a statement that it "continues bilateral contacts" with both sides aimed at restoring calm and securing a lasting truce that "serves the interest of the Palestinian people, especially in relation to the opening of the crossings and reconstruction."
An Egyptian compromise proposal calls for easing the blockade but not lifting it altogether or opening the territory's air and seaports, as Hamas has demanded.
While the plan does not require Hamas to give up its weapons, it would give Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas, a foothold back in Gaza running border crossings and overseeing internationally backed reconstruction.
The Gaza blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.
Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas and other militant groups from getting weapons. Critics say the measures amount to collective punishment.
___Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh and Maggie Michael in Cairo and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
CNN reporter Ian Lee posted this video on his Instagram account of Gazans celebrating the cease-fire deal.
According to BBC producer Michael Shuval, an Israeli official said Hamas' demands for the opening of a seaport and airport in Gaza are not part of the Egypt-brokered deal both factions agreed to on Tuesday, but will be discussed in further talks within a month.
Israeli official: CF doesn't include Hamas demands on port, airport, prisoners & funds. Sides will discuss those via Egypt within a month.
— Michael Shuval (@MichaelShuval) August 26, 2014
An Israeli official told the Associated Press that Israel will ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip as part of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal. The agreement will enable the passage of humanitarian aid and construction material to rebuild the war-torn territory, according to the report.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian official told Buzzfeed that the terms of the deal were similar to those reached after the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2012. That year, Israel pledged to ease restrictions at Gaza's border in exchange for a cessation of rocket fire from Hamas militants.
-- Charlotte Alfred
— Jon Gambrell جون (@jongambrellAP) August 26, 2014
According to several reporters in Israel, Palestinian militants have fired a barrage of rockets at Israel moments before the start of a long-term ceasefire.
Sirens warning of rocket attacks sound in southern Israel after Gaza ceasefire was due to take effect
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 26, 2014
Heavy rocket fire continuing on Gaza border areas 5 minutes after Hamas says ceasefire in effect.
— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) August 26, 2014
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) August 26, 2014
Via the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli official says Israel has accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire plan to end a seven-week war against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip.
The official said Tuesday that Israel "responded positively" to Egypt's call for an open-ended cease-fire.
Egyptian state media reported the cease-fire was to begin at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).
The Israeli official said Israel would ease its blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian and construction materials to enter the war-battered territory.
He said indirect talks on more substantial issues would begin in Cairo within a month. Issues are expected to include Hamas' demand for an end to the blockade and Israel's calls for Hamas to disarm.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with journalists.
A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel has accepted the Egyptian-proposed truce. The official added that members of Israel's cabinet had been notified.
Read more here.
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian state media has announced a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel to halt the seven-week Gaza war, which has killed over 2,200 people.
Both Egyptian state television and the state news agency MENA announced the deal Tuesday night. Both said it begins at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), without elaborating.
Earlier, officials with from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the main groups fighting in Gaza against Israel, said a cease-fire had been reached. Israeli officials have not immediately commented. They described it as an "open-ended" cease-fire that included an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory.
Israeli officials have yet to comment.
Egypt state TV reports as well that a cease-fire was reached between Hamas and Israel, the Associated Press writes.
Reporter Ben Hartman writes on Twitter that reports have emerged that 3 Israelis were seriously wounded in an attack from Gaza.
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) August 26, 2014
A senior Hamas official told the Associated Press that the group reached an agreement with Israel which for an "open-ended" ceasefire.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Egypt will announce the deal later Tuesday.
Agence France Presse and the Associated Press report that a senior Hamas official official says Israel and Palestinians reached a long-term cease-fire.
AFP: Palestinian official says a long-term #Gaza truce has been agreed with Israel
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) August 26, 2014
Iron Dome intercepts two rockets above Sderot in southern Israel http://t.co/WVEA2e1GXp
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 26, 2014
The Times of Israel reports that the Israeli army has retaliated for earlier strikes fired from Lebanon into the Upper Galilee.
Peter Lerner, spokesman for the IDF, tweeted moments ago:
— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) August 25, 2014
Read more here.
According to the Israeli army, a rocket fired from Lebanon into Israel hit the Upper Galilee.
BREAKING: At least one rocket fired from Lebanon hit the Upper Galilee.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 25, 2014
Reuters reports that the Bank of Israel reduced interest rates to a historic low on Monday.
Fears that weeks of fighting with Hamas will harm an Israeli economy already hurt by a global slowdown led the Bank of Israel to reduce interest rates for a second month in a row on Monday.
After a surprise reduction a month ago, the central bank again lowered its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter-point to 0.25 percent - an all time low. All 10 economists polled by Reuters had forecast no move.
"Karnit joined the war effort," said Ofer Klein, head of economics and research at Harel Insurance and Finance, referring to Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug.
"It is hard to imagine that without the military operation in the background, the Bank of Israel would choose such an extreme move especially when the United States is already talking about raising interest rates."
Read more here.
The Iron-dome missile system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza over Ashdod.
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) August 25, 2014
Israel's defense ministry is helping Israeli families living near Gaza to evacuate from their homes.
Livnat Ginzbourg, a spokeswoman for Israeli communities along the Gaza border, said some 100 families were leaving their homes on Monday, following a similar number the previous day.
It is another major exodus of residents during the fighting. Many people fled last month after the discovery of Hamas tunnels that had been burrowed into Israel. Residents were encouraged to return home after Israel said it destroyed the tunnels and a preliminary truce was reached.
Ginzbourg said some families had stayed in Israeli government-funded accommodations during the recent war, but Monday's evacuation was the first time the government was coordinating and financing temporary accommodation for all families wishing to flee. She estimated that 70 to 80 percent of residents in communities closest to the Gaza border have fled, mostly families with young children.
Defense Ministry spokesman Jonathan Mosery said it was not a mandatory evacuation, but the government was assisting Israelis who live up to five kilometers (3 miles) from the Gaza border, paying for them to stay at youth hostels and other accommodations in areas farther away.
The need to uproot families yet again, just days before the start of the school year, has led to widespread exasperation.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Israeli residents of the Gaza border area, saying the government would "do our utmost to help you through these difficult days" and promising an "extraordinary package of assistance for your communities."
Palestinian medical officials say 11 people were killed in airstrikes on Gaza on Monday.
11 Palestinians have been killed over the course of the day, according to Palestinian medical officials http://t.co/6r7jjQgz2n
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 25, 2014
A rocket fired from Lebanese territory hit northern Israel late Saturday, the army said on the 47th day of a war against the Islamist movement Hamas in and around Gaza.
"The rocket that was fired from Lebanon hit the Upper Galilee," the army said in a statement, correcting a previous communique that said the rocket had hit east of Acre.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the launch or reports of damage or injuries.
A Lebanese security source said the rocket was fired from Dheira, three kilometres (nearly two miles) from the border with Israel.
Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a 12-story apartment tower in downtown Gaza City on Saturday, collapsing the building, sending a huge fireball into the sky and wounding at least 22 people, including 11 children, witnesses and Palestinian officials said.
Israel has launched some 5,000 airstrikes against Gaza in nearly seven weeks of fighting with Hamas, but Saturday's strike marked the first time an entire high-rise was toppled. The explosion shook nearby buildings.
The Israeli military said the airstrike targeted a Hamas operations room in the building, but did not explain why the entire tower with 48 apartments was levelled.
Gaza police say Israeli aircraft fired a warning missile at the roof of the tower at dusk, followed five minutes later by two missiles with explosives.
Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, said at least 22 people were wounded, including 11 children and five women.
Egypt and the Palestinian president are pressing for a return to ceasefire talks as airstrikes in Gaza and rocket fire at Israel continued on Saturday, Reuters reports.
Since the previous temporary truce collapsed on Tuesday, Gaza medics said 65 Palestinians had been killed and Israel's army said almost 500 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, one of which killed a four-year-old boy.
Gaza health officials said five people, including two children, were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in central Gaza. Four more Palestinians were killed in other strikes.
The Israeli military said it bombed about 20 targets across the Hamas-dominated strip, including rocket launchers and weapon caches. It said Gaza militants had fired more than 40 rockets at Israel and no Israeli casualties were reported.
Senior Hamas official says group will not cooperate with resolutions calling for Gaza disarmament http://t.co/qVY289BOuo
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 22, 2014
A mortar bomb fired from Gaza killed a four-year-old Israeli child in a border collective farm on Friday, Israeli security sources said.
The boy would be the fourth civilian in Israel to be killed in an attack from the coastal territory since the outbreak of conflict on July 8, and the first Israeli death since an Egyptian-brokered truce broke down earlier this week. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, most of them civilians.
BREAKING: Rocket sirens sound across central Israel http://t.co/qVY289BOuo
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 22, 2014
Three people were wounded after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants struck an Israeli synagogue shortly before evening prayers for the Jewish Sabbath, Reuters reports.
Read the full story here.
Gaza gunmen killed 18 alleged spies for Israel on Friday, including seven who were lined up behind a mosque and shot after midday prayers, in response to Israel's deadly airstrikes against top Hamas military commanders.
Hamas media portrayed the killings as the beginning of a new crackdown, under the rallying cry of "choking the necks of the collaborators." It was the largest number of suspected informers killed by Hamas in a single day since it seized Gaza by force in 2007.
The Al Majd website, which is close to the Hamas security services, said suspects would now be dealt with "in the field" rather than in the courts in order to create deterrence.
Hamas said it would not release the names of those killed because it wanted to protect the reputation of their families. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said two of those killed Friday were women. It called for an immediate halt to what it said were "extra-judicial executions."
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said a synagogue in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod was hit by a rocket Friday.
Rockets fired at the city of Ashdod. Synagogue building hit. Damage caused. Police units on the scene.
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) August 22, 2014
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that two people were wounded in the attack.
Rocket hits Ashdod synagogue; two injured http://t.co/jpUEtdrRZ3
— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) August 22, 2014
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) August 22, 2014
Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'Alon has requested permission to call up 10,000 reserves, Haaretz reports.
BREAKING: Defense Minister Ya'alon requests cabinet permission to call up 10,000 reservists http://t.co/G8pVCIxgVw
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 21, 2014
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified Israel's defense minister.
A senior Hamas official said his group was responsible for the kidnap of three Israeli teenagers in June, Reuters reports.
"There was much speculation about this operation, some said it was a conspiracy," Saleh al-Arouri told delegates at the International Union of Islamic Scholars in Istanbul on Wednesday, according to a recording of the meeting posted online by organizers.
"The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Qassam Brigades in imprisoning the three settlers in Hebron," he said, referring to Hamas's armed wing.
Read the full story here.